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Tom Gurney BSc (Hons) is an art history expert with over 20 years experience
Published on June 19, 2020 / Updated on October 14, 2023
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Titian was given full artistic licence by King Philip II of Spain to produce six large commissioned pieces during the period of 1549–62

The artist would choose from a selection of mythological themes for each of these paintings, with this particular canvas coming later on in the series, after several had already been completed. Danae, Venus and Adonis, Perseus and Andromeda and Rape of Europa all came before the final two parts in the series, namely Diana and Actaeon and Diana and Callisto. Titian also produced The Death of Actaeon but this never made the journey to King Philip II and this therefore not considered part of the series.

This painting captures the moment that Actaeon mistakenly interrupts goddess Diana and her bathing nymphs. Her reaction is to punish him which leads to the next painting of the Death of Actaeon. Titian was in playful mood in this depiction, adding elements of amusement such as the dogs challenging each other and a fountain placed just below a nymph's buttocks.

The original Diana and Actaeon can now be found on display at the National Gallery in London, UK. This impressive venue holds an extensive collection of art from the Renaissance, Baroque and Romanticist art movements with Titian himself well represented. They also possess Bacchus and Ariadne, An Allegory of Prudence, Diana and Callisto and Portrait of Gerolamo Barbarigo amongst several other of his paintings.

The two final parts of the series have been well researched by several art historians connected to the paintings' owner - The National Gallery in London. They have consistently invested in art history research, particularly on items from their own collection. Several letters between commissioner and commissionee, Titian and King Philip, have uncovered their correspondence over the progress of the works and the logistics on shipping the completed works.